Wednesday, August 24, 2011
3/161: Drowning Ruth
Had lunch with a reader friend the other day & was telling her about this book. She asked me what made me buy it to begin with... the back jacket, written by Francine Prose, of all people (she keeps popping up on me!), explains it all:
"[A] gripping psychological thriller... In the winter of 1919, a young mother named Mathilda Neumann drowns beneath the ice of a rural Wisconsin lake. The shock of her death dramatically changes the lives of her daughter, troubled sister, and husband... Told in the voices of several of the main characters and skipping back and forth in time, the narrative gradually and tantalizingly reveals the dark family secrets and the unsettling discoveries that lead to the truth of what actually happened the night of the drowing..."
And once in my hand, once inside the cover, this book had me with the first sentence: Ruth remembered drowning and held me captive until the very last: We will begin again.
So many words come to mind when I think of this book: compelling, riveting, engrossing, haunting, captivating, fascinating, creative... So intriguing and thought-provoking that I was not able to pick up another book for well over a month after I finished. I just wanted to hang on to it because it is a story I wish I had thought of, a tale I wish I had told. I just couldn't quite let go of it...
So, so many, many things I take away from this book - the pages dogeared and creased... and away we go into the quotable quotes of Drowning Ruth:
But if the stranger I had recently become was relieved, some other part of me shuddered with despair, and I found myself weeping, the tears searing my frozen cheeks, at the thought that I'd had to hide myself from a man I'd once loved.
Somebody had to see that things went as they ought.
When I thought of God, now, He was hovering somewhere over France, not paying any attention to me at all.
You have to be careful with your feelings, I think. It's a mistake to let them go just because they're summoned.
Of course, I would miss my work, but I was secretly a little pleased to see my proper course lay elsewhere.
- it never made sense to buy at the top. You made money only when you could see what others couldn't.
She smiled on, looking as if she meant to live forever.
Coming home couldn't change me back into the girl I'd once been.
It was the kind of day that makes you fear that God, distracted by finer things, has forgotten you.
It made me shiver to think how loyal she was, ready to do what I asked, trusting it would be all right as long as I said so.
Maybe there was no hiding here.
But everyone was a fool about something.
Imogene appreciated skill, especially if she could make use of it.
"Sometimes you die, sometimes you don't. That must be how it is with drowning."
His knock was a warning, rather than a request.
You shouldn't visit your dead mother to impress your bored friend.
It was a strange idea, frightening somehow, as if for a moment the door between the world of the living and the world of the dead had blown open.
"You know things, but you don't tell."
"There's a proper time for things."
At least, he'd packed her away somehow.
He missed her with a sense of nostalgia, in much the same way he missed his own youth, and even when he tried, he couldn't find a trace of the unbearable agony and black dispair that had once overwhelmed him.
"Carl, you have to think ahead of the farm. You can't just be running from one emergency to another. You'll never get anywhere that way."
You could stare and stare at the water, but you could never see down more than a few feet. A whole other world could be going on under there and you'd never know it.
Almost against her will, Amanda found herself graspoing for Ruth again and again, but every time her fingers closed they seemed to scratch, and the girl who'd once clung to her as if she were life itself shrank away.
"I know how things can change in ways you never meant."
She'd begun to realize that people always had something to say.
You can't imagine how fierce people can be when they're crazy with fear, when they know they're going to die, when they believe you're an angel pushing them toward the grave.
"He's bursting with good ideas. It's just that bursting makes a mess, and somehow he's never around when it comes time to clean up."
"Garnish makes the plate, that's what Mrs. Owens says."
The air had freshened slightly that morning, signaling the end of summer, but to Ruth th ecoolness was more sad than invigorating.
Keeping things whole, she reflected, rubbing the base of her thumb, demanded a great deal of concentration.
That summer, the path he'd been following, the route chosen and painstakingly marked by his parents, had forked.
"Sometimes a blank slate is best," she'd said. "There's something to be said for a girl who's open to influence."
He was sure that she would take him somewhere he'd never been, somewhere he couldn't even imagine.
"But what you want doesn't always matter, does it?"
He loves Imogene. Did this grieve her because he would have Imogene or because Imogene would have him? Both, she supposed. Both left her alone. But she was Imogene's friend, that was the important thing. And she would be Imogene's friend, with or without her.
When people left, in my experience, they stayed gone.
On a farm, the earth has secrets, and the weather has passions, but people don't matter so much.
I will have you, I thought. I will keep you. We will begin again.